By Bob Lawton, San Gabriel, California
Published in 3rd Quarter 1994 issue of Continental Comments (Issue # 199)
Recently a fellow member, knowing that I had joined LCOC back in 1955, asked me if the Club was as enjoyable and interesting when the only eligible cars were 1940 through 1948 Lincoln Continentals. We were interrupted before I could answer him, but I got to thinking about his question later. I guess I would say, “Yes, but in a more informal way and on a much smaller scale.”
LCOC was, from the beginning, a unique kind of animal. It was made up of a very small number of people who, like myself, were not restorers of classic automobiles, but just ordinary people who happened to have fallen in love with one particular model of one make of car simply because it was so beautiful. Many other people who felt the same way never became members for the simple reason that there were so few Lincoln Continentals to be had. Remember, we’re talking about a car whose annual production was, for the most part, less than a thousand units per body style.
We had to have our own club. No one else would have us! The only other clubs around at the time were the Lincoln Owners Club and the Classic Car Club. The former were the ones who collected and restored Lincoln K, KA & KB cars, and who believed that Edsel Ford had made a pact with the devil by bringing out the Lincoln-Zephyr and its upscale relative, the Lincoln Continental, both of which had that HV-12 engine. The Classic Car Club was populated by guys in alpaca sweaters and wearing Rolex watches who had garages full of Duesenbergs, Pierce-Arrows, Packards, etc. Our Lincoln Continentals were technically accepted as Classics by the CCCA, but I can attest from personal experience that if you attended one of their functions someone would probably ask if you were one of the caterers. Our only real support came from the Ford Motor Company, God Bless ‘em.
LCOC members in those days tended, as I recall, to be more blue-collar than whitecollar. Most of us were in no great shape financially. I believe that when I bought my 1948 Lincoln Continental Coupe I had just gotten a raise to the magnificent sum of $350 a month! Rarely did anyone own more than one Lincoln Continental. One was hard enough to find and support. For the most part we did our own mechanical work, or found a good independent mechanic with the knowledge and willingness to work on the car. (Lincoln mechanics would run and hide if you took your V-12 to your local Lincoln dealer for service.)
National Meets were pretty much like what we have today, although smaller in scale. During the rest of the year we took
drives to places like Apple Valley for lunch, or maybe just a picnic in a local park where everyone brought their own food and beer and we just sat around and talked about our beloved Lincoln Continentals.
A lot of us drove our Lincoln Continentals regularly. For a number of years mine was the only car I owned. (Two-car families
in the Fifties mostly lived in Beverly Hills or Brentwood, and they didn’t drive old Lincolns to work).
It may come as a surprise to many of today’s members, but engine conversions were quite common back then. We even
gave trophies for the best engine conversions, and I know personally of one Lincoln Continental that won a Ford Trophy with a flathead Ford V-8 under its hood!
If you were one of thee ones who drove his Lincoln Continental a lot an engine conversion was a real blessing. When I
bought my 1948 Coupe from a Lincoln dealer in early 1955 the engine had just been converted to a 1954 Lincoln V-8, that 205 horsepower beauty that was running away with everything at the Mexican Road Races. After blowing low gear a couple of times I had a Cadillac Dual-Range Hydramatic installed. We retained the original shift lever and did not install a quadrant. So inside the cabin there was no indication that any changes had been made. The car looked absolutely original from outside but drove like a new Lincoln. When a joint National Meet was held in Colorado Springs for all Regions, my car just sailed up those steep curving roads in the rarified atmosphere of the Rockies, while a lot of twelves were gasping for lack of air (and torque.)
Of course, we never foresaw an LCOC the size and scope that we have today. For a number of years we wouldn’t even allow a Mark II to join us. (Of course, when a $10,000 Mark II was new, its owner had no interest in membership in a club like ours. His club was more likely to be the Bel-Air Country Club.)
It’s been 35 years or more since those days, and now the LCOC is mature, dignified and has about 4,000 members who own
everything from Leland Lincolns to new Town Cars. The Lawtons now have a 1977 Continental Mark V and a 1987 Town Car. But we still get the same thrill when we see perfectly restored Lincolns of any vintage! Long live the LCOC.